By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities landlord is warning renters to be on the lookout for fake rental properties online.

A new scam has con artists creating fake advertisements, using information taken from real rental properties on sites like Airbnb and cashing in. WCCO’s Kate Raddatz talked to a landlord here in the Twin Cities who had his property information stolen.

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Chris DeLaurentis rented apartments for 15 years before he decided to open up the Historic Brownstown buildings in downtown Minneapolis to Airbnb customers.

“It was so cool. Loved it, lots of interest, it kept booking,” DeLaurentis said.

A year went by without any problems. But a few days ago, Chris got an email from a woman who said she was almost scammed by someone claiming to be renting out one of Chris’ units. She found an ad on Craiglist. The photos, information all look identical to Chris’ original ad on Airbnb.

“She was responding to the Craigslist ad. Everything looked legitimate until they asked for payment through a wire transfer to a bank in Maryland,” DeLaurentis said.

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In an email exchange the customer shared with WCCO, the scammer created a fake contract and asked for a wire transfer of $2,100. She didn’t fall for it, but the ad is still active online.

“They actually are listing two apartments in my building,” DeLaurentis said.

Chris, who had to go through a routine screening process to be approved to rent through Airbnb, already reported the ad to Craigslist and the police. He doesn’t want anyone to be out of money, and a place to stay.

“I want it to be a good experience for everybody,” DeLaurentis said.

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We reached out to the Better Business Bureau, which said they had not yet heard of this specific case but that there are a number of online rental schemes that have popped up, along with the rise in popularity of sites like Airbnb and VRBO.

Kate Raddatz